US citizen sentenced to life in Iraqi prison
BAGHDAD (AP) — An Iraqi court has sentenced an American citizen to life in prison on charges of assisting al-Qaida and financing terrorist activities in Iraq, according to a government statement released Thursday.
The Interior Ministry said Omar Rashad Khalil, 53, was recruited by al-Qaida in Iraq in 2005. Khalil, an architectural engineer, is of Palestinian descent and entered the country in 2001, the ministry statement said.
The ministry released excerpts from a confession it said Khalil made in which he allegedly admitted to receiving money from a Syrian man in the United Arab Emirates to pay for terror attacks.
Khalil, who the ministry said was also known as Abu Mohammed, was sentenced by Baghdad's central criminal court on Wednesday. Iraqi government officials could not immediately be reached for more details.
U.S. embassy spokesman Frank Finver issued a statement saying that the embassy officials were aware of the reports. The statement did not give further details, citing privacy act considerations, and referred questions to local authorities and Khalil's attorney. Neither the embassy nor Iraqi officials identified Khalil's lawyer.
Meanwhile, Iraq's Justice Ministry said six people convicted on terrorism charges were executed on Thursday, bringing the number of executions since the beginning of this year to 102. The ministry statement had no further details and did not identify the six.
The increase in government-sanctioned executions in Iraq has raised concerns among international human rights observers about whether the defendants are receiving fair trials. Iraq has shrugged off calls to abolish the death penalty.
Also Thursday, a morning car bomb in Baghdad killed five bystanders and wounded 13 people, police and health officials said.
The explosives-packed car went off in the upscale Sunni-dominated Mansour district, two police officers said. The blast narrowly missed a passing convoy of employees working for an unidentified security company. Three policemen at a nearby checkpoint were among those wounded in the attack, the officers said.
A medical official in a nearby hospital confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
Violence has dropped in Iraq since the height of the insurgency a few years ago but militants still stage assassinations and other deadly attacks nearly every day.
The country also sees occasional large-scale bombing offensives, often in multiple cities on a single day, attributed to the Sunni-dominated al-Qaida in Iraq. The group has for years sought to undermine Iraq's Shiite-led government with attacks against the security forces and Shiite civilians.